Mike Vrabel and the Titans ease to a 34-10 win over the Patriots

The Patriots fell to 7-3.

Patriots Titans Football
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is sacked for an 11-yard loss by Tennessee Titans defensive end Jurrell Casey in the first half. –AP Photo/James Kenney

Mike Vrabel 1, Bill Belichick 0.

The Tennessee Titans thoroughly and soundly defeated the Patriots on Sunday in Nashville, 34-10, snapping New England’s six-game winning streak and giving Vrabel, Tennessee’s first-year coach, a victory over his former coach, Bill Belichick, in their first head-to-head matchup.

It was the first time the Titans defeated the Patriots since 2002.

The Patriots are now 7-3 and the Titans are 5-4.

Tom Brady and the New England offense looked out of sorts at every turn.

The Titans got after Brady, never letting him get comfortable and disrupting his timing. They hit him six times, sacking him three, while holding him to a 51 completion percentage and knocking down four of his passes.


Brady seemed unwilling to target anyone other than James White (8 targets, 5 catches, 31 yards), Julian Edelman (9 on 12 for 81), and Josh Gordon (battling a finger injury, 4 on 12 for 81). Certainly being without tight end Rob Gronkowski and right guard Shaq Mason were factors as was left tackle Trent Brown coming in and out of the game because of illness and a back injury suffered in the game.

But New England managed just 284 yards, 16 first downs, were 3 of 15 on third down, and barely mustered 40 yards on the ground.

Marcus Mariota and the Tennessee offense looked well-rounded and, at times, explosive as they handled a struggling Patriots’ defense. Corey Davis was a thorn in Stephon Gilmore’s side, scoring a touchdown over the Patriots’ best corner and finishing with seven catches for 125 yards. Former Patriot Dion Lewis finished with 22 touches for 68 yards, and Mariota completed 16 of 24 passes for 228 yards and two touchdowns.

Tennessee was 5 of 12 on third down, totaled 23 first downs, and had a solid day rushing the ball, collecting 150 yards (4.2 per carry) and two scores.

Below are updates and analysis from the game as it unfolded.

Fourth quarter

Titans 34, Patriots 10 (0:00): Cordarrelle Patterson picked up a first down on the Patriots final drive. New England dropped to 7-3 on the season.


Titans 34, Patriots 10 (2:30): Dion Lewis carried the ball three times for a combined six yards before punter Brian Kemp sent the Patriots back to their own 34-yard line.

Titans 34, Patriots 10 (4:51): The Patriots’ offensive struggles continued. This time it was backup quarterback Brian Hoyer under center as New England went three-and-out on two short rushes and an insufficient third-down completion.

Titans 34, Patriots 10 (7:14): The Titans tried some trickery of their own — with greater success. Using much the same play as the Patriots had on the previous drive, Darius Jennings lofted a pass to Marcus Mariota, who rumbled down the sideline for a 21-yard gain.

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Four plays later, Derrick Henry took a direct snap and sprinted up the middle for a 10-yard touchdown to cap a six play, 58-yard drive.

Titans 27, Patriots 10 (10:48): Different strategy, same result.

On third and 7, the Patriots tried a trick play, switching the usual roles as Julian Edelman threw a pass to Tom Brady. However, the quarterback was stopped one yard short of a first down. Bill Belichick went for it on fourth down but Brady’s pass intended for Julian Edelman was knocked away by Logan Ryan.

The Titans took over on their own 42-yard line.

Titans 27, Patriots 10 (13:32): Stephon Gilmore sacked Marcus Mariota on third and 2, forcing the Titans to punt. Tennessee had picked up one first down, with a Mariota to Corey Davis 8-yard connection, but Gilmore got to the quarterback to send the Titans offense to the sidelines.

Third quarter

Titans 27, Patriots 10 (2:00): Punt No. 5 for Ryan Allen. The Patriots picked up one first down, via James White, before a Tom Brady deep ball intended for Josh Gordon on third down fell incomplete.


Titans 27, Patriots 10 (4:15): Ryan Succop kicked a 31-yard field goal to cap a 10 play, 78-yard drive for the Titans. Tennessee started deep in their own territory, but soon moved downfield as wide receiver Cameron Batson eluded Devin McCourty and pulled in a 26-yard Marcus Mariota pass. Mariota added a 27-yard completion to Corey Davis and a 20-yard scamper of his own before two straight incompletions stalled the drive.

Titans 24, Patriots 10 (9:18): Ryan Allen was called into action for his fourth punt of the afternoon. The Patriots started the drive brightly, picking up a first down before Tom Brady stepped up in a collapsing pocket and rifled a pass to Josh Gordon over the middle for a 23-yard gain. However, his pass intended for Jacob Hollister on third and 4 landed incomplete to stall the drive.

Titans 24, Patriots 10 (11:49): Tennessee matched New England with a three-and-out of its own. Dion Lewis carried twice for a total of 5 yards before Marcus Mariota threw an incomplete pass to Tajae Sharpe on third down. After a Brett Kern punt, the Patriots took over on their own 16-yard line.

Titans 24, Patriots 10 (13:21): The Titans defense got to Brady once more, sacking the quarterback on third down to force a three-and-out on the opening drive of the second half. Sony Michel picked up 1-yard on the first play and Brady threw an incomplete pass intended for Julian Edelman on the second.

Second quarter

The Titans took a 24-10 lead into the half. A few stats:

Yards per play: NE 4.4, TEN 5.6

First downs: NE 10, TEN 14

Third down: NE 2-9, TEN 4-8

Penalties: NE 2-21, TEN 3-25

Titans 24, Patriots 10 (0:00): Former Patriot Logan Ryan slammed Tom Brady to the turf with two seconds remaining in the half. Brady had dropped back to attempt a Hail Mary after New England decided not to send out Stephen Gostkowski for a try from the Tennessee 43-yard line.

Titans 24, Patriots 10 (1:05): Derrick Henry punctuated an eight play drive with a 1-yard touchdown. The Titans capitalized on the short field — they started on the New England 37-yard line — as they padded their first-half lead.

On the third play of the drive, an under-pressure Marcus Mariota stepped up in the pocket and found Corey Davis down the left sideline for 20 yards.

After the Titans reached the red zone, Kyle Van Noy stopped the 6-foot-3, 238-pound Henry on the 1-yard line. However, the Patriots couldn’t keep him out of the end zone on the following play.

Titans 17, Patriots 10 (5:45): The Patriots, starting at their own 9, went three-and-out. Sony Michel gained 4 yards on first down before Tom Brady threw back-to-back incompletions to Josh Gordon.

Titans 17, Patriots 10 (5:55): Brett Kern pinned the Patriots offense inside their own 10-yard line with a 36-yard punt. Earlier in the Titans drive, running back David Fluellen was helped off the field after pulling up with a leg injury. The Patriots defensive line swarmed Dion Lewis for a loss on the next play, before cornerback J.C. Jackson wrapped up Darius Jennings for no gain on third down to end the drive.

Titans 17, Patriots 10 (9:23): Stephen Gostkowski pulled a 52-yard field goal attempt wide left. Tom Brady connected with Julian Edelman for a 30-yard gain on the first play of the drive, but could not do the same with Josh Gordon and James White on back-to-back plays to bring out Gostkowski. The Titans took over at their own 34-yard line.

Titans 17, Patriots 10 (11:25): Julian Edelman returned a Titans punt 18 yards to the New England 30-yard line. Dion Lewis sandwiched a 5-yard rush and 3-yard reception around a Marcus Mariota incompletion as Tennessee went three-and-out.

Titans 17, Patriots 10 (12:49): On his first carry of the season, Patriots fullback James Develin powered past the Titans defensive front for a 1-yard touchdown.

James White led New England to the goal line, picking up 11 yards on 4th and 2 from the 12-yard line. Brady had tried to do it himself on 3rd down, but the Titans stopped him short.

Bill Belichick went for it and was rewarded with seven points two plays later.

On the first play of the drive, Brady hit Julian Edelman for a 29-yard gain.

First quarter

Titans 17, Patriots 3 (0:00): Before the end of the quarter, Tom Brady led the Patriots offense into Tennessee territory. They picked up 58 yards on five plays, including a 14-yard gain on a rifle of a Brady pass to Gordon in traffic.

Titans 17, Patriots 3 (2:05): Ryan Succop kicked a 33-yard field goal to extend Tennessee’s lead. Marcus Mariota made the most of the short field position, finding Jonnu Smith for a 29-yard gain to set up the score.

Titans 14, Patriots 3 (4:25): New England was forced to punt after a three-and-out. After an incomplete pass and a short gain by Sony Michel, the Titans defensive line got to Tom Brady for a sack on 3rd and 8. The sack led to a 49-yard Josh Allen boot.

Titans 14, Patriots 3 (5:55): Corey Davis fought off tight coverage to pull in a 23-yard touchdown pass from Marcus Mariota. The score capped a nine-play, 78-yard drive by Tennessee. On the second play of the drive, Duron Harmon looked to have dropped a sure interception on a Mariota pass over the middle, but a flag had already been thrown for pass interference. Dion Lewis and Derrick Henry led Tennessee downfield before Davis’s grab.

Titans 7, Patriots 3 (9:19): Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 52-yard field goal through the uprights to put the Patriots on the board. Tom Brady and the New England offense started the drive on their own 25-yard line. On third and 13, Brady beat the Titans secondary over the top for a 44-yard gain to Josh Gordon.

Brady looked for Gordon on the next three plays, but the wideout dropped the first, was stopped for no-gain on the second, and couldn’t reel in the third to bring out the kicking unit.

Titans 7, Patriots 0 (11:29): Jonnu Smith escaped from Patrick Chung, found space in the corner of the end zone, and caught a 4-yard touchdown pass from Marcus Mariota on the first drive of the afternoon. Tennessee started with excellent field position — the New England 40-yard line — after a 58-yard return by Darius Jennings. On the first play from scrimmage, Mariota fired over the middle to Corey Davis for a 24-yard gain that put the Titans in the red zone. Three plays later, Davis had a chance for a touchdown but Mariota’s pass into the back of the end zone was too high for him to hang onto. No matter, Smith finished the drive with seven points two plays later.

Pregame notes and scenes

Coin toss: The Patriots win the toss and elect to defer. Marcus Mariota and the Titans offense will start with the ball.

Sony Michel
Sony Michel warming up before the game. —Matthew J. Lee / The Boston Globe

Chris Hogan (left) and Julian Edelman warm up before they play the Tennessee Titans. —Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff
Julian Edelman
Julian Edelman shaking hands with military personal before the game. —Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff


  Tight end Rob Gronkowski traveled with the team to Nashville, but is inactive. He had been a limited participant at practice all week, hampered by a nagging back injury and an ankle injury. He said Friday that this season has been “more challenging” for him.

  Also inactive for the Patriots are running back Kenjon Barner, guard Shaq Mason, defensive end Derek Rivers, safety Obi Melifonwu, cornerback Keion Crossen, and tackle Matt Tobin.

  Running back Sony Michel, linebacker Dont’a Hightower, left tackle Trent Brown, and tight end Jacob Hollister are all active.

  Ted Karras is likely to get the start in place of Mason for the second straight week.

  For the Titans, defensive lineman Matt Dickerson, offensive lineman Jack Conklin, receiver Taywon Taylor, offensive lineman Aaron Stinnie, fullback Jalston Fowler, safety Dane Cruikshank, and linebacker Derrick Morgan are inactive.

Keys to victory


1. Corners Logan Ryan and Malcolm Butler have plenty of experience facing Tom Brady. Do they recall any subtle Brady tells that will aid them in their defense?

2. Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey is a mover and a shaker. He can move blockers with ease and shake ball carriers to their core. He needs to be a force.

3. The backfield tandem of Dion Lewis and Derrick Henry needs to kick it into high gear to get this game on cruise control. Let Lewis strike early and Henry grind the gears late.


1. The pass rush was near-perfect against Aaron Rodgers. A duplicate effort is needed against Marcus Mariota. Keep him contained or he’ll bring the pain.

2. Keep the ground game churning no matter who’s lining up behind Mr. Smash Mouth himself, James Develin. Keep the attack balanced to keep the Titans off-balance.

3. Tennessee’s receivers are banged up. Get physical with them, slow them, and then snag an interception or two. The Patriots have a takeaway in every game this season.

Jim McBride

Pregame reading

■  Chad Finn’s Unconventional Preview: The Titans are an opponent worthy of respect, and they’ll prove it even in defeat. (Read more)

■  The Patriots’ offense is famously difficult to learn for receivers, which makes what Josh Gordon is doing even more impressive. (Read more)

■  For the Patriots’ defense, weekly benchmarks have been the measure of improvement. (Read more)

■  Patriots-Titans scouting report: Who has the edge in every phase of the game, players to watch, and more. (Read more)

■  Playing with Patriots is a dream come true for safety Obi Melifonwu. The Mass. native and former UConn standout, released by the Raiders earlier this season, gets to start over in Foxborough. (Read more)

Brady vs. Logan and Butler

Tom Brady is expecting strong competition from two cornerbacks he knows well, Logan Ryan and Malcolm Butler, both of whom left the Patriots over the last two years to join the Titans in free agency.

“They’ve gone on to have some really great contracts and I’m happy for them. They really earned it. I think when you’re a great player, you get the opportunity to do that. I know we can’t keep everybody but obviously happy for them and what they’ve accomplished,” Brady said.

“They were hugely impactful in what we were trying to do in the roles that they played. Logan was a great player, still is — incredible awareness and just such a smart player. And Malcolm, I’ve always loved playing against him and in practice, it was very competitive. He’s a very competitive person. He wants to try to win every play and hopefully we can have a good plan against that entire defense.”

Brady went on to mention Butler and Ryan as members of the NFL’s No. 1 red zone defense and top scoring defense, both frequent talking points in Foxborough this week. While the Titans have allowed the fewest points and have the highest-rated red zone defense, context is necessary to inform how successful they actually have been.

The Titans defense has been on the field for 83 opponent drives this season. That’s relatively few, which keeps scoring totals down. The Patriots defense, for instance, has seen 107 drives.

Tennessee has still been disciplined and successful defensively, but take their status with a grain of salt.

— Nora Princiotti

Owen Pence contributed to this report.


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